After the first ''Desperate Housewives'' episode of 2006, our constant viewer submits a list of New Year's resolutions he wishes the show's writers would make
Eva Longoria
Credit: Eva Longoria: ABC/ANDREW ECCLES

”Desperate Housewives”: Some friendly advice

Okay, so I just finished watching the first new Desperate Housewives episode of 2006, and I figured it was an appropriate time for some New Year’s resolutions — not only for myself but for the show’s writing team.

We’ve all got room for improvement, right? To show how easy it is, I’ll go first. For starters, it’s time I stopped kvetching about how Housewives‘ second season has fallen short of the show’s brilliant freshman year. (Not that I don’t still think that’s the case, but hey, there’s not much flesh left on the dead horse, is there?) Second, I promise that I’ll only call for an Eva Longoria Emmy every third TV Watch column for the remainder of the season. (And no, the preceding sentence doesn’t count.) Finally, I’ll accept that Marc Cherry isn’t ever going to wise up and sign the delectable Harriet Sansom Harris as a full-fledged cast member, depriving me of weekly doses of her vicious-sweet (and MIA) Mrs. Tilman. That leaves me with only three resolutions for the Housewives‘ writers’ room, and they read as follows:

Shake up the show’s format every once in a while Yeah, yeah, I know the old saying, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but does that mean you shouldn’t occasionally take the old jalopy in for a tune-up? Think about it: When we first saw Housewives back in October 2004, it was like finding a lush oasis in a desert full of dry crime procedurals and bland family sitcoms. But 34 episodes in, Housewives is as guilty as any series of following a formula. You know the drill: Mary Alice kicks things off with that singsongy voice-over (the one you only half listen to because it no longer advances the plot or gives you a deeper understanding of the characters). The action jumps from Susan to Bree to Lynette to Gabrielle until it comes to a screeching halt with Betty. You get a zinger from Edie, maybe one scene of the Housewives together, and then…cue Mary Alice to wrap things up. Scenes from next week’s show (yay!) and then…Grey’s Anatomy.

Tonight’s episode could’ve been the perfect opportunity to shock us from a case of Wisteria Lane doldrums. Imagine, for starters, if Mary Alice had gotten the evening off and, better still, if the entire hour had been set at Bree’s cocktail party. The writers could’ve retained the playful, inspired kiss between Tom and Gaby, let the subsequent tension between Lynette and Gaby percolate (and escalate) over the course of the evening, and finished up with the exact same whopper of Carlos making a pass at Lynette, a scenario that would’ve played as far more realistic (and amusing) at the end of an alcohol-fueled evening than it did in the sober light of Lynette’s front lawn. On the same note, imagine Bree’s discomfort had she caught Andrew and Justin canoodling in the pantry, within steps of all her guests, instead of walking in on them shirtless and half-asleep on a quiet suburban morning? (Heck, she’s already caught the two guys in Andrew’s bedroom in a past episode.) I would’ve also loved to see Betty and Matthew in attendance at Bree’s, dodging pesky questions from a Susan-Edie tag team. Instead, the Applewhites once again spent the entire episode isolated from their neighbors, leaving me wondering if — 12 episodes after the family’s initial appearance — the writers have any memory of why these characters were introduced in the first place. (Why, for example, introduce a bounty hunter and have him accidentally die breaking into the Applewhites’ house? Don’t they have plenty to cover up already?)

Of course, if Mr. Cherry doesn’t like my first resolution, he could always try this one:

Broaden the Housewives universe Seriously, you’d think one of the highest-rated series on network TV would have a big enough budget to set up a couple location shots. Why not take advantage of ABC-Disney synergy and let Lynette and Tom take the kids to Disney World? Okay, maybe not that, but the last time I checked, Gaby wasn’t under house arrest. How come this worldly woman hasn’t once gotten the itch to drive to the nearest big city for a day of retail therapy?

Actually, I should probably stop here to give credit where it’s due. That scene where Mike, Susan, and Julie took Zach to the bowling alley was a step in the right direction. Watching what used to be the show’s hottest couple relaxing and having some goofy fun, I almost forgot the appalling image of Susan collapsing in a tearful heap in her wedding gown in front of Mike’s truck. Now if only we could get a shot of Bree letting off some steam at the firing range, we might have an episode in which all four major housewives are operating with their grooves back.

Which brings me to my third, and perhaps most important, resolution:

Never let these amazing characters fall into predictable ruts And by ruts, I mean any of the following behaviors that we had to stomach this evening: Betty acting surprised by finding Caleb has gotten out of the basement again. Betty suspiciously eyeballing the other housewives. Paul and Mike engaging in stern-male face-off mode. Bree threatening to send Andrew to reform school. Andrew threatening to embarrass his mother. Susan sheepishly approaching Mike’s driveway and/or front door. Any additional character meeting an untimely death prior to the season finale. (Seriously, these people aren’t jet-crash survivors stranded on a deserted island; they live in the suburbs. The body count has to stop somewhere!)

Now, please, don’t let little suggestions be mistaken for an anti-Housewives screed. The series still has moments of sheer brilliance — like Bree snapping off the top of her wineglass during Andrew and Justin’s smooch, Edie jogging in that midriff-baring outfit, and Gaby saying, ”If I’m head cheerleader, then nobody wears panties!” And even without all that, any show that features a recurring neighborhood lady who keeps her cat on a leash is already more inventive than a good 75 percent of network series. Which, quite frankly, should be enough to keep me addicted at least through Jan. 1, 2007.

What do you think? Will Carlos take Gaby up on her offer to let him have a retaliatory affair? Did you buy Bree’s hiring of Carl to help in her battle against Andrew? How quickly do you think the bounty hunter’s body will be traced back to Casa Applewhite? And what New Year’s resolutions would you impose on the Housewives writing staff?

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